I came to a final point of faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 34. I was raised in a Christian and faithful home. My father is a Protestant pastor, my parents missionaries in Africa (formerly) and my entire background until after seminary was in Protestantism. I’ve told this story before so won’t repeat it again. I’ve been struggling recently (thus the silence on this page) with something.
When I first began to deeply study and absorb the Bible, I was struck by how different the Faith described by Jesus in the Gospels and the Apostles in the Epistles was from my own experience of Christianity. The way of life and belief espoused by Holy Scripture was nowhere close to what I had lived. That dichotomy only increased as I began to read the Church Fathers and study the ancient Church. I realized very quickly that the Faith and practice of the early Church was nothing like the modern lived experience of American Christianity.
So, I went looking for the Church. I wanted to know if there were any Christians left who held fast to the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). Someone asked me one time, “When will this end for you, where will you be happy?” My reply was, “When I find the faith and practice of the Apostolic Church, the Church that Jesus Christ founded.” That desire burns more deeply in my heart today than ever before.
Like most people who claim to be Christians, where we live was deeply affected by the so-called lockdowns during the so-called pandemic of Covid-19. I really don’t want to get too much into a discussion on this but what I will say is this. The modern Church (I’m painting with a broad brush here) is largely cowardly. Especially the American Catholic Church. The cowardice and cowering of our bishops to the oppressive conduct of state and federal governments is inexcusable.
The Church does not bow to the state. Period.
In fact, if we believe what our Lord Jesus said, all power and authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18-20), then the only authority that governs the Church is the authority of Christ the King. Not a president. Not a governor. Not a city council member. The Lord Jesus is the King and we bow to none but Him. For our Church leaders to bow to the state is a dereliction of their duties as shepherds of the Church of Christ. This was all done, of course, in the name of health and safety and “for the common good.” This is, of course, a nonsensical argument and only serves to illustrate my point. What could serve the common good more: running in fear from a virus or standing firm on our faith and proclaiming that the condition of our souls matters more than the condition of our bodies?
Our Church leaders are acting like they don’t believe in the resurrection. Think about this for a moment. The fear exhibited by our bishops and by the faithful (most of us anyway) has shown us where our true priorities lie and where our true belief is. If we believe in the resurrection and the promises of our Lord Jesus, then we would fear nothing. But, our reaction to this so-called pandemic has shown quite glaringly that the faith once for all delivered to the saints has been largely lost in the haze of the modern world. If you believe something, then your actions show that belief. What have our actions shown to the world what we believe?
This brings me back to my original statement that the modern lived experience of the Church today, for the most part, is entirely divorced from the faith and practice of our holy forebears. Let me bring this a little closer to home. Vatican II came about because the Catholic Church (or at least the loudest voices in the room) felt that we needed to modernize the faith to meet the conditions and situation of the modern man. The Pope at the time, John XXIII, famously said that we needed to “throw open the windows of the church and let the fresh air of the spirit blow through.” I’m not sure what that means but I think we can all see the outcome of this. Faith has largely been lost (at least in the Roman Catholic Church). Rather than the “fresh air of the spirit” blowing through the Church, the modern world with all its heretical beliefs and pagan practices has invaded and infected the Church. To be fair, this has been going on in one form or another since the beginning.
The problem is that the premise is wrong. The Church should never adapt to the modern world. I’m not talking about using vernacular language or using air conditioning or technology or any other silly thing I’ve heard people say. I’m talking about the beliefs and practice of those of us who call Jesus our Lord. To say that doctrine “develops” over time is flatly untrue. The Faith once for all delivered to the saints does not “develop.” The Faith may be explored more deeply and our experience of it peeled back layer and by layer; farther out and deeper in, as the saying goes. But there is no “development” of doctrine. Either it is what all Christians have believed for all times in all places or it is not.
The deposit of the Faith does not and has not changed since our Lord Jesus walked among us.
Let me give you a recent example. Pope Francis recently gave a statement that the Church cannot and will not endorse same sex “marriage.” That statement created quite an uproar apparently. The point is not the uproar the statement created. The point is this: why in the world would the Pope even need to make this statement? This statement is entirely unnecessary if the Church were actually being the Church. If the deposit of the Faith were being guarded and kept as it should be, this statement would never have to be made.
I heard an Orthodox priest recently say (paraphrased) that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). That means that the Church should be the same yesterday, today and forever. The Body takes after the Head. He went on to say that we cannot alter the Church Herself but rather, the Church alters us.
I wonder. Can we honestly say that is true today? Does the Body take after the Head? Have we allowed ourselves to be altered by the Church or have we altered the Church? It is not Christ who has changed. It is not the deposit of the Faith that has changed.
Maybe we are the problem, not the Church.
Pray, brothers and sisters, for me as I seek the face of our Lord in His Church. Pray that we would return to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Let us repent of our arrogance and love of the world. Repent and believe was the cry of the Apostles. Let it be, again, our cry.
Glory to Jesus Christ!
I swear if I hear one more Church figure use that word, I’m gonna scream. It’s become a buzz word over the past several years in Church circles and it’s making me crazy.
“Come and worship with us and hear messages that are relevant for today.”
“You need to be relevant in your preaching.”
Or other such nonsense as that.
It’s as though Christ isn’t relevant enough. I mean, that’s basically what is being said. The Gospel isn’t enough. No, we need relevance, whatever that means.
Therein lies the problem. Relevance means whatever you want it to mean. The whole premise behind the shift in the Church over the last 50-60 years just makes my head hurt. The thought that we need to adapt our worship or presentation of the gospel to “modern man” is just asinine. Modern man, in his lost state, wants nothing whatsoever to do with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here’s the thing. The only thing that is relevant to our lives today is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only relevant thing in life. Everything else is either a means to get us closer to Him or farther away. There’s a couple of things we need to consider:
The preaching of Jesus Himself
The reality of eternity
Let’s start with the preaching of our Lord Jesus. If you’ve read the Gospels at all, you will know that Jesus’ preaching and teaching was not exactly popular with the establishment of the day. Actually, it wasn’t exactly popular with most people of the day, period. He told people to repent. He told people to stop sinning. He told people that they were going to have to choose between loved ones and Him. He told people that they would have to carry their cross and be persecuted. He told people that allegiance to Him meant dying to the world. He told people that the Kingdom had come and it looked radically different than their idea of power. He told people to pray for their enemies and give away all their goods. He preached a gospel of radical self-denial and absolute surrender to God’s will. He told people that disobedience to what God (and He) said meant eternal damnation.
Now, let’s consider the “relevant gospel” that we so often hear today, from all denominational entities.
Be nice to each other. Be racially and socially woke. You don’t actually have to die for Jesus because He came to make you happy and healthy and have a great life. Don’t worry about sin and hell and damnation, ‘cause Jesus is nice now and He won’t condemn you. Enjoy all the comforts of life, ‘cause Jesus doesn’t want you to be uncomfortable. Just come as you are (that’s code for don’t worry about repentance). Be a good person. You get to keep your life just as it is. We don’t have to hear truth; I’ll just tell jokes. Heck, sometimes people even dress up as movie characters. We can re-think the way the Church has always done things. Our music is modern and we have relevant teaching for your children (that’s code for your kids get the warm fuzzies and get to play with toys). We’re gonna sing love songs to Jesus.
Do you see the difference? If Jesus were preaching today, very few would listen to Him…kinda like what happened in His day. If Jesus were preaching today, people would condemn Him as harsh and unloving because He told them to repent. He certainly wouldn’t be preaching a gospel of environmentalism (I’m looking at you, Pope Francis). If Jesus were preaching today, He would be utterly rejected by modern man and many who claim to be Christian.
Now, let us consider the reality of eternity. Aside from our society just straight up being a bunch of whiny babies, we really don’t seem to want to think too much about eternity. Here’s what I mean. If this life is all there is, then the “relevant” gospel makes perfect sense. If this life is all there is, then you better be nice and have fun activities and dress up like movie characters and tell jokes in your sermons and be woke. If this life is all there is, eat drink and be merry and don’t worry about those depressing things like repentance and the Cross.
But, if there is an eternity, if there is a Heaven and Hell (and Jesus said there was), then His gospel becomes supremely relevant. If our eternal destiny is either being in His presence and the fulness of joy versus an eternity of flames and anguish that never dies, relevance takes on a whole new meaning. If your gospel revolves around making yourself appealing to the culture, you are damning people to Hell.
Jesus didn’t seem too concerned with how people felt about what He said. He seemed far more concerned with how they lived their lives, whether they were obedient to what He said, lived righteously and how they loved others. The Apostles and Fathers and holy martyrs of the Church didn’t seem too concerned with being popular or relevant. They seemed concerned about fidelity to the person and message of Jesus Christ, no matter the cost.
There is only one thing that is relevant. Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything else is irrelevant and ultimately leads to the road to Hell. Our preaching, our worship, our cool and hip songs, and joke telling is utterly worthless if we don’t say first and foremost:
Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.